The Classes Are There But They’re Scary, So Not Enough Students Take Them

School Children Visit State Capitol (MSA)This anonymous interview is with a special librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Catalogers with reference shifts

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Midwestern US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Other: Library school can only provide about half of what any library needs

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)


What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging

√ Library Management

√ Collection Management

√ Web Design/Usability

√ Research Methods

√ Reference

√ Information Behavior

√ Services to Special Populations

√ Outreach

√ Marketing

√ Instruction

√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Bibliographic instruction. The classes are there but they’re scary, so not enough students take them. And then they regret it later.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Use of our particular ILS, databases, etc. Most aspects of cataloging (although already getting the theory is important).

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience

√ Internship or practicum

√ Professional organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

No preference

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

We’d look into the timing of any school that lost its accreditation, but otherwise no.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Don’t focus too heavily on one specialty. Not only is the job market uncooperative, but many people get that first job in their chosen area and discover after a couple years that it’s not for them after all. Explore the bigger picture.

The federal loan people will offer you extra money for general living on and some schools will recommend you take it to make it easier to focus on your studies. That debt will be a problem later, including limiting what jobs you can take.

Take bibliographic instruction and management. Those are the two everyone seems to flee in terror from but they’re the tasks you’re most likely to have dumped on you regardless of preparation.

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!



Filed under 10-50 staff members, Midwestern US, Special, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

5 responses to “The Classes Are There But They’re Scary, So Not Enough Students Take Them

  1. I’m curious to know what schools offer a class in bibliographic instruction. Kent State currently does not; it’s not even in the catalog that I can find, unless it’s integrated as a component of another class. Anyone else out there going to a school that offers such a class?


  2. I took a great User Instruction class at the University of Maryland; it definitely prepared me for the instruction classes that I often teach.


  3. When I attended Indiana University (MLS 2009), a course in library management was required for the degree. A course in Education of Information Users was also offered; the course has since changed its name and number.


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